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PRESS RELEASE: Volkswagen Announces Audit at Urumchi Factory

PRESS RELEASE: Volkswagen Announces Audit at Urumchi Factory

Press Release – For Immediate Release
22 June 2023
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
0049 (0) 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

Yesterday, during an event with investors, the CEO of the VW Group, Oliver Blume, announced that the VW-SAIC plant will be audited by an independent audit company. Volkswagen operates a plant in Urumchi, East Turkistan, as part of a joint venture with the Chinese state-owned company SAIC. In this region, the Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, as confirmed by the independent Uyghur Tribunal and several national parliaments. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Chinese government may be committing crimes against humanity in East Turkistan. 

“Uyghurs are under 24-hour surveillance by the Chinese government, both in private and in public spaces,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress. “No one can speak freely without putting themselves and their families in life-threatening danger. The whole region is like an open-air prison. Therefore, it is very questionable how Volkswagen will ensure that the audit can be conducted independently. Volkswagen has a moral duty to ensure that it does not become a profiteer of the genocide of the Uyghur people.”  

According to the report by Sheffield-Hallam University and NomoGaia, there is serious evidence that Volkswagen’s supply chains are tainted with Uyghur forced labour. The report states that Volkswagen has the most connections to suppliers that are problematic in this regard. For this reason, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed a complaint yesterday with the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) against BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. The complaint is supported by the WUC and the umbrella organisation Critical Shareholders.

In addition to human rights organisations, investors are also increasingly criticising Volkswagen. Following a critical rating by the US rating agency MSCI, Volkswagen was removed from all sustainability products of the investment company Deka Investment. This was done in response to the U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which aims to prevent companies from profiting from Uyghur forced labour. 

The only way Volkswagen can ensure that they are not unwittingly supporting the Chinese government’s oppression of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, is therefore to completely withdraw its supply chains from the Uyghur region. The report by Sheffield-Hallam University and NomoGaia indicates that the supply chains of many car companies are exposed to Uyghur forced labour, as sectors important to the auto industry, such as steel and aluminium production, operate in East Turkistan. “It is a common policy of the Chinese state and large Chinese companies such as steel producer Baowu to use Uyghur forced labour in East Turkistan. Volkswagen must approach the authors of the report and explain how it is addressing forced labor in its supply chains,” said Hanno Schedler, the GfbV’s expert on genocide prevention and the responsibility to protect.